Wednesday, December 14, 2011

In the News: Continued Shifts in American Attitudes re: LGBT Persons, Continued Challenges for People of Faith

A collection of articles all sharing common themes:

At National Catholic Reporter right now, Sister Maureen Fiedler calls on people of faith to celebrate Hilary Clinton's recent defense of the human rights of LGBT persons.  Fiedler thinks we are "in a new and positive moment" for LGBT persons, as societal attitudes shift from exclusion and condemnation to inclusion and acceptance.  

Unfortunately, some of the responses in the thread developing beneath Fiedler's posting suggest that for some Catholics, that new moment will be deferred as long as possible, and these Catholics will have to be dragged kicking and screaming into love and affirmation of gay folks and respect for the human rights of those who are gay.

And speaking of being dragged kicking and screaming into a new moment of love and affirmation of gay folks: after Christian right candidate Janice Daniels was elected mayor of Troy, Michigan, last month, a post she had placed on her Facebook page in June, when New York inaugurated civil marriage for same-sex couples, hit national news.  

Daniels had written, 

I think I am going to throw away my I Love New York carrying bag now that queers can get married there.

When controversy developed about this statement, Daniels scrubbed it from her Facebook page, apologized, and said she had only intended to make a funny.  It was just a joke.

And now, as Mary Elizabeth Williams is reporting at Salon, last week at a city council meeting, a local resident, Amy Weber, confronted Daniels and her prejudice head-on.  Weber attended the meeting with her wife Tina and two daughters.  She showed her drawings the two girls had made for Daniels, with the word "love" written on them.

And she informed Daniels, 

In the end, love is all that matters.  No matter what you’re doing in life, if you can look at it through the lens of love, you will do the right thing.

Which isn't perhaps a bad thing for Daniels to hear, since her Facebook page proclaims that she gets her inspiration from Jesus Christ, and she ran her mayoral campaign on a tea party ticket that was all about strengthening Christian values in the U.S.

The growing revulsion of many Americans at remarks like Daniels's "joke" about "queers" and the willingness of people to push back against political homophobia like that Rick Perry has recently exhibited with his gross gay-bashing video in Iowa represent a sea-change in American attitudes about gay folks, Michelangelo Signorile thinks.  Writing at Huffington Post, he argues that we may be reaching a turning point at which even Republican politicians, who have made a profession out of gay-bashing in recent years, will be begin to recognize that the price they pay for this behavior is simply not any longer worth the benefits they gain from it.

As I read through this collection of recent news stories, I keep wondering how the U.S. Catholic bishops intend to process the sea-change that is now taking place in American culture, as more and more people recognize that they know and love someone who is gay.  That they have gay brothers and sisters (and, sometimes, gay fathers and mothers).  That people they work with are gay.  That people they respect and with whom they do business are gay.

The bishops have a steep uphill climb now, it seems to me, as they continue to press their argument that respecting the human rights of LGBT persons--in particular, the right to civil marriage--is an incomparable threat to the stability of our civilization.  And that people of faith should have the "right" and the "religious freedom" to discriminate on grounds of conscience, because their faith dictates that they do so.

It's going to be particularly hard to press that argument right now, after a Saudi woman has just been beheaded for "witchcraft and sorcery" following charges made against her by the country's religious police--the second Saudi woman executed for witchcraft this year.  I have no doubt that those putting this hapless woman to death imagine they are following their consciences, and are acting within their faith-based "rights" and according to their "religious freedom."

But I also think that this case illustrates in a particularly glaring way something the U.S. Catholic bishops and folks like Janice Daniels haven't quite figured out yet: namely, that in a civilized society, certain core values of tolerance, inclusion, human decency, and respect for human rights have to norm what believers choose to do in the public square.  If that society expects to sustain itself as a humane and civilized society, that is . . . . 

No comments: